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Homelessness advice for victims of domestic abuse

This advice is for anyone experiencing domestic abuse:  

What is domestic abuse? 

Domestic abuse is any behaviour between people aged 16 or over who are personally connected that is abusive. 

Behaviour is abusive if  it is any of the following:

  • Physical or sexual physical abuse: such as rape, being forced to participate in sexual acts, being forced to watch pornography
  • Violent or threatening behaviour: such as kicking, punching, biting, slapping, restraining, throwing things, burning
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour: such as preventing contact with family/friends, threats 
  • Economic abuse:  such as depriving of money, selling possessions, controlling expenditure, loaning money
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse: such as giving you the silent treatment, name calling/insults, mood swings, criticism, playing on your fears 

It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. 

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Get help now 

If you’re worried about violence or abuse from your partner, ex-partner or a member of your family, you can get help and advice. If you’re in immediate danger, you should always phone the police on 999. You can also contact the police on their non-emergency number: 101. 

You can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, if you're a woman experiencing domestic abuse. 

You can talk confidentially to someone about your situation and to find out what your options are. If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse you can contact the Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327. 

If you are in a same-sex relationship you can call the National LGBT Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 999 5428.  

Call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 if you feel in despair and want someone to listen to you and provide emotional support.  

Leaving your home 

  • If you are a Tower Hamlets Homes  tenant, you can contact your Housing Officer to discuss the matter in confidence. 

  • If you are in temporary accommodation provided and managed by the Council, you should contact your housing officer or caseworker. 

  • If you are a housing association tenant, please contact your Housing Manager at your housing association.  

  • If you do need to leave, it might be that you could stay with friends’ or relatives while you think about what to do next.  

Take some essentials with you such as a change of clothes, toiletries and any medication you need to take regularly. Try to bring important items such as your passport, bank and credit cards and mobile phone.  

Do not make a decision to give up your home permanently until you have spoken to an adviser and considered all your options.  

Use Shelter's directory to find a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice in your area.  

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 3454 345 to find out if you are entitled to legal aid.  

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Refuges for women  

Women experiencing domestic abuse may be able to stay in a women's refuge. 

Some refuges are specifically for women from certain backgrounds, such as Irish or Asian women. Staff at refuges can give you advice about your situation. 

Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for more information about refuges. 

Refuges for men 

If you are man who has to leave home because of domestic abuse, you can make a homeless application to the council. There is limited specialist housing for men experiencing domestic abuse. For further help finding men’s refuge spaces, please contact M.A.L.E. The advice line is open Monday to Friday, 10am-1pm and 2-5pm. Call 0808 801 0327 or visit the M.A.L.E website. 

Use Shelter's directory to find a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice in your area.  

Get homelessness help from the council 

You can apply as a homeless person if you can't stay in your home. The council will give you advice about finding somewhere to live. You are entitled to apply to any council in England. You will not be referred back to your local authority of residence if there is a risk of violence if you return. 

You will not be considered ‘intentionally homeless’ if you leave your home or have left your home because of domestic violence. If the council has a duty to find you somewhere to live you will be asked to provide details of your situation. You may be asked for supporting evidence, which could include details and dates of incidents. You can take a friend or an adviser with you for support. 

You can request to be seen by a caseworker  of the same gender as you, and you can also request an interpreter if you do not speak English. Everything you share with your case worker will remain confidential and you will not be under an obligation to report any incident to the police if you seek help from the council. 

Find out more on your rights as a homeless person.

If you want help to challenge a council decision, Use Shelter's directory to find a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice in your area. Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 if you are entitled to legal aid. 

Use the Housing Options Finder tool if you want to find out what help there is available from the Council and to book an appointment.

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Confidentiality 

If you talk to the Council whatever you discuss will remain confidential.  

What if I want to stay in my home?  

If you do not want to leave your home, there are options available to minimise the risk to you. These include applying for Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders and the Sanctuary Scheme.   

The Sanctuary Scheme is a project run by the council in partnership with the police. The service is based on a risk assessment and aims to prevent homelessness amongst victims of domestic violence. It is not suitable for victims still living with the offender or in high risk cases where re-housing is the only safe option.  

The Sanctuary Scheme reduces risks by carrying out safety works in your home such as fitting a sanctuary door, changing locks, securing windows and installing fireproof letter boxes.  

For further information, contact the VAWG & Hate Crime Team by phone 0800 279 5434 or email domestic.violence@towerhamlets.gov.uk 

Help for children and young people 

If you or someone else in your family is being hurt at home, you may not be sure what you can do about it. Domestic abuse is not your fault and you won't get into trouble for telling someone about it. The first thing is to tell someone else about what is happening to you. You can tell a teacher, a neighbour, a friend or a friend's parent.  

You can call Childline on 0800 1111 for free. They won't tell anyone else you are calling unless you are in immediate danger. They can tell you about places where you can get help.  

What if I have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’? 

There are some refuges that accept victims with no recourse to public funds although there is limited availability.  

There is limited support available from the Council if you do not have recourse to public funds. For more information on whether you are eligible for assistance by the council contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre.  

There are some ways you can apply to remain in the UK and become eligible for more assistance.  

Individuals who are in the UK on a spouse or partner visa usually have leave to enter or to remain in the UK for between 24 and 30 months, this is often referred to as the probationary period. If you have come to the UK on a spouse or partner visa and you are experiencing domestic abuse you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain straight away.  You can apply at any time during the probationary period (you do not have to wait until it comes to an end) and even if you have overstayed your visa (however you will have to justify your reasons for not applying before).  

If you are thinking of applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the domestic violence rule, it is very important that you try and get legal advice. A legal representative will be able to collect evidence for you and help make your application.  

Women making applications under the domestic violence rule can get accommodation and access to welfare benefits whilst they make the application through the Home Office Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC).  

These organisations can help you with the Home Office Destitution Domestic Violence Concession  and asylum applications:  

  • Rights of Women provide an advice line with free, confidential legal advice on immigration issues. Contact women lawyers on: 020 7251 8887 or 020 7490 2562 (text phone) on Mondays 2-4pm and Wednesdays 11am-1pm.   

  • The Citizens Advice Bureau and Law Centres will also be able to provide advice. Tower Hamlets Citizens Advice Bureau address: 32 Greatorex Street, London, E1 5NP. For online information and advice visit www.eastendcab.org.uk; or  email towerhamlets@eastendcab.org.uk;  or telephone on 020 7247 1050.  

  • You can look for a solicitor or immigration representative in your area using Civil Legal Advice (084 3345 4345 Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm. Saturday, 9am-2.30pm).  

Tower Hamlets may be required to provide NRPF families with accommodation and/or financial support when there is a child under 18 in the family. If this is a situation that applies to you, you can contact our Social services department on 020 7364 5000.  

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I want to move out of the area? 

The Revive Project is project run by Homefinder UK for those experiencing domestic abuse who may want to resettle in permanent social housing in a different part of the country.  

 If you are a domestic abuse survivor, who is willing to move and find permanent social housing in a different part of the country, contact revive@homefinderuk.org;  or call 0203 823 1072. If you are not registered and can safely access the internet, you can register online. Alternatively you can call and they will register you over the phone.